Adam Olsen says he was very concerned about the fortunes of the Green Party in B.C. as he took on the job of interim leader 18 months ago.
The coffers looked a little bare and he says he was still running into people who just would not get past the perception that the Greens were a one-issue party.
Today, however, much of that has changed.
In a recent interview with the PNR, Olsen talked about his work across the province to raise the profile of the Green Party, lay the groundwork for better fundraising and dispel some of the myths.
Olsen accepted the job as interim leader after running in the 2013 provincial election and falling only 300-plus votes shy of matching the winner, the NDP’s Gary Holman. Olsen picked up 32.07 per cent of the vote in Saanich North and the Islands. Holman, in comparison, won with only 33.27 per cent. Runner up Stephen Roberts garnered 32.76 per cent.
That showing helped propel Olsen into the provincial-level job. Right away, he says there was work to be done.
“There was a focus on revenue and our member numbers,” he says. “We needed to increase the volume and increase the revenue. I was very concerned at how slow things seemed at the very start.”
Olsen says he tempered that worry with the fact that Green MLA Andrew Weaver out of Oak Bay was doing good work and representing the party well. Throw in the fact that Elizabeth May, the Saanich Gulf Islands MP and federal Green Party leader has such a strong work ethic and seems to be at the top of the parliamentarian lists each year.
“We still had to earn it,” Olsen says.
The provincial Greens set a fundraising goal of $50,000 in December 2014. Olsen says when all was said and done, the party raised $90,000. Olsen said they revised that goal — which was again surpassed in December 2014 to hit more than $112,000.
Overall last year, Olsen said the party raised nearly $300,000 — more than the $250,000 they collected in 2013, an election year.
As for members, Olsen said a few hundred more have trickled in over 2014, but there hasn’t been a push on for that — the party will wait until after this year’s federal election.
Dogged by the assertion that the Greens are only interested in the environment, Olsen says to some extent that’s true, but looking at today’s top issues in B.C., they have their roots within the environment. The Mount Polley mine incident, he says, had major economic repercussions. The Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal, the same thing, and the current B.C. government’s focus on liquefied natural gas as a future economic driver raises serious questions.
“In each of these issues, yes, there are environmental concerns, but each are also economic and social issues to be addressed.”
Olsen adds he feels the party is doing well in its job of presenting voters a full package, and is not just a one trick pony.
As the party’s main representative, Olsen says he spent most of last year travelling the province, looking for places where the Greens might be able to run a candidate.
To be taken seriously as a party, it’s always been a stipulation that you run as many candidates in as many ridings as possible — that holds true for any party wanting to hold power in the legislature.
Yet Olsen says the Greens are not going to put just anyone on the ballot. While the names being put forward in B.C. ridings are “impressive,” Olsen says it’s imperative that they take it seriously.
“It won’t be any name. And the candidates won’t be paper ones. We’re asking them ‘do you know this job?’”
Olsen’s own job as interim leader will probably come to an end in early 2016. He cannot put his name forward in the next leadership race — but he doesn’t seem concerned about that.
“People have asked me to do that, but I am not. I will follow in Andrew’s footsteps and turn down the leadership and be more useful and try to be elected.”
While he waits for that change within the provincial Green Party, Olsen says he’ll be working to help May hold onto the riding at the federal level.
“I’m a huge supporter of hers, and she supported me last time.
“It’s going to take a lot of work.”